Shielding forestry workers from aggressive protesters

Friday 17 Feb 2023

Forestry workers in Northern NSW are experiencing illegal protests at their work sites, with one contractor told their machinery would be “burnt to the ground”, says Shooters Fishers and Farmers MLC, Mark Banasiak.

“Peaceful protest is essential in a democracy. However, there is nothing peaceful about the protests currently happening in the Bulga State Forest,” said Mr Banasiak. “I am inundated with desperate calls for help from forestry workers who are intimidated, harassed and threatened by many of these protesters at their work site.

“Forestry workers have a right to go to work and feel safe, just like all other workers in this State,” said Mr Banasiak. Since December 19, 2022, harvesting operations in State forests on the Mid-North Coast have been shut down on three separate occasions, with four illegal blockades by environmental protesters.

“The actions taken by these protesters threaten the safety of everyone; the site workers, the security personnel and their safety,” said Mr Banasiak. “In the last term of Parliament, I introduced a Bill that aims to protect forestry workers, authorised personnel and security personnel from environmental activists who disrupt forestry operators with aggressive and violent behaviour that risks the safety of those who work on the site.

“I will reintroduce the Bill in the next term in a bid to curb these illegal activities”. Greens MLC, Sue Higginson, has been on-site in the Bulga State Forest, offering legal advice to the illegal protesters. “Putting the safety of forestry workers at risk to win votes in an election is truly despicable behaviour by The Greens, although I am not surprised, I am appalled that a Member of the Legislative Council would encourage illegal behaviour,” said Mr Banasiak.

Source: Shooters, Fishers and Farmers

As NSW approaches a state election, the future of forests is a key question for many communities, conservationists and the timber industry. The National party launched its election campaign on Friday and MPs were greeted by about 20 protesters, some holding “protect native forests now” banners. Renewable native timber harvesting, done sustainably, will continue to have a future under a Liberal and Nationals government.

Victor Violante from the Australian Forest Products Association NSW, says the protests are “incredibly damaging for the mental health of workers” and he said that the position of parties such as the Greens and some independent candidates is also detached from reality.

“To replace the native vegetation volumes currently being harvested with plantation hardwood, we would need 250,000 additional hectares of hardwood plantations,” he said. The protests – and debate – are expected to ramp up in the lead up to the election in six weeks’ time.


Source: The Guardian

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